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Scabies in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What is scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition that is caused by scabies mites. Scabies mites are tiny bugs that burrow, lay eggs, and live underneath the skin. Scabies is spread through close contact with a person who has scabies. This includes sleeping in the same bed, or sharing towels or clothing. Scabies can spread quickly and must be treated as soon as it is found.

What are the signs and symptoms of scabies?

You may not know your child has scabies until a few weeks after mites are under the skin. Scabies mites are too small to be seen on your child's body. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Red, raised bumps on your child's skin
  • Bad itching that is usually worse at night
  • Burrow marks (short wavy lines) in between your child's fingers, or on the wrists, ankles, elbows, groin, armpits, feet, or head

How is scabies diagnosed and treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child's skin. The provider will put mineral oil on your child's skin and scrape it across with a small blade. The skin scraping will be checked under a microscope for eggs, mites, or their droppings. Your child's healthcare provider may want to treat scabies even if signs of mites are not found. Several kinds of medicine may be used to treat scabies. The medicine may be a cream or pill. Always follow the directions for the scabies medicine you are told to use.

  • Your healthcare provider may tell you to rub a thin layer of the medicine onto your child's entire body from the neck down. For babies and toddlers, you may also be told to rub the medicine on the scalp.
  • Leave the cream on for the amount of time that is required for the medicine you are using. This may be between 8 to 14 hours.
  • Have your child take a bath or shower to wash all medicine from the skin after the scabies treatment is done.
  • Put clean clothes on your child after the medicine is rinsed off. Your child may need another scabies treatment in about 7 to 10 days if symptoms continue.

What can I do to help relieve my child's itching?

Your child's skin may continue to itch for 2 or 3 weeks, even after the scabies mites are gone. Over-the-counter antihistamines or cortisone cream may help relieve itching. Ask your child's healthcare provider what medicine you may use for the itching. Trim your child's fingernails so he or she does not spread any mites that are still alive after treatment. Do not let your child scratch his or her skin. Scratches may cause a skin infection. Put mittens on small children to keep them from scratching. A cool bath may also help relieve your child's itching.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How do I prevent the spread of scabies?

  • Treat all family members with scabies medicine. Tell anyone who has shared your child's clothing or bed for the past month about the scabies. Tell them to ask their healthcare provider for scabies medicine even if they have no itching, rash, or burrow marks.
  • Wash all items that your child has used since 3 days before you learned about your scabies. Use hot water to wash all clothing, bedding, and towels. Dry them for at least 20 minutes on the hot cycle of a dryer. Take items to be dry cleaned that cannot be washed in a washing machine. Place any clothing or bedding that cannot be washed or dry cleaned in a closed plastic bag for 1 week.
  • Do not let your child have close body contact with anyone until the scabies mites are gone. Ask about public places your child should avoid, such as the park.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child develops a fever and red, swollen, painful areas on his or her skin.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • The bites become crusty or filled with pus.
  • Your child has worsening itching after scabies treatment.
  • Your child has new bite or burrow marks after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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Treatment options

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Further information

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